Lisa Wexler is co-author of the new book “Secrets of a Jewish Mother” with sister Jill Zarin and mother Gloria Kamen. Hear what she has to say about the single parenthood trend in Hollywood!
Once upon a time, celebrities, like other mere mortals, were not allowed to get pregnant before they got married. If they did, their careers were ruined. Marriages and abortions were hastily arranged, often by studio magnates. No one wants to return to the days when women -– celebrities or otherwise — were scorned and disgraced because they became pregnant out of wedlock.
Nonetheless, there has been a startling display of celebrities proudly proclaiming their status as unwed mothers these days. Kate Hudson is emulating her mother, Goldie Hawn, who married for the first baby, Kate, and then went on to have another out of wedlock. Halle Berry, Selma Blair, Natalie Portman, Sheryl Crow, Kourtney Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, the list goes on. They are all unwed mothers. Some are engaged or living with their baby daddys, others are not. Each one of these moms has their own story.
Recent research indicates that many people nowadays consider the institution of marriage itself to be obsolete; if one feels that way, then of course the idea of marrying to procreate seems rather quaint and outdated.
But nobody ever seems to ask these celebrities, “Are you doing what is in the best interest of your baby? Have you considered that your child might like to be raised by a committed pair instead of a solo mom?” The media is quick to assume that if a celebrity behaves a certain way, that way is okay. No one wants to judge anyone else’s life choices because we can all point to stories of single-parenthood that worked out fine, and people who grew up in two-parent homes who turned out to be emotional wrecks. And even with the best of intentions, two parent families often wind up as a single parent household because of death and divorce.
So why do I suggest that celebrities ought to think twice before telling the world they are ecstatic about the prospect of un-wed parenthood? Because the fans who watch, listen and copy these celebrities do not have the money and resources that celebrities do. They are the ones who may get fooled into thinking that one parent is just as good or as easy as two, and that somehow their child’s emotional and material needs will be met by magic.
While celebrity moms have all the money they need to raise their children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “nearly six of 10 children living with mothers only were near the poverty line” in 1995, clearly showing that it is no easy task to provide for a family alone. In addition, Children in need: Investment Strategies tells us that “75% of teenage pregnancies are adolescents from single parent homes.” If you don’t believe it, watch an episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. Many of the girls are products of teen pregnancy themselves and not from stable homes.
Parenting is very hard work. Even two parents often are not enough. Hillary Clinton made famous the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”, because the words rang true to every parent who ever heard them.
Celebrities both mirror and influence our society. Companies pay them millions of dollars a year because people follow their example. More American children than ever are now being born to out of wedlock mothers. Historically, children born out of wedlock and raised by one parent are statistically significantly less likely to have a successful life, as measured by criteria such as higher education, better-paying careers, and more stable personal lives.
Are these celebrities responsible for these statistics? Probably not. But ought they affirm the values of a two parent home? Absolutely.
It’s very difficult to generalize about these things; obviously every situation is different. I don’t know what I would do if I had an unintended pregnancy; it never happened to me. It took me 11 years to have my two children. I also never found myself wanting a child without having a partner with me to help raise one; I’m not sure how I would have handled that either.
But I think that when society drastically changes its mores, and it seems to be doing that, we all benefit from asking questions. So let’s start a conversation.
I wish all the mommies and babies well.
Lisa Wexler, is a talk radio host and the co-author of “Secrets of a Jewish Mother,” with her sister Jill Zarin and her mother Gloria Kamen, coming out in paperback March 1st. She just celebrated her 29th wedding anniversary.